Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don't fear the setback

We nervous people are often too hard on ourselves when we have a setback. We may make phenomenal progress only to feel guilt and shame for giving into a compulsion, failing to spot symptoms and use our tools to address them, or for missing meetings. In essence, even in our journey toward becoming well we demand perfection of ourselves; we want to be exceptional and never make a mistake as we try to improve our mental health.

Yet Dr. Low reminds us that we are apprentices in recovery and, as such, we are constantly learning about how to address our symptoms (Low, 1995, pp. 57-64). Especially when we begin addressing our fears and triggers, we must expect setbacks, just as an apprentice will certainly make mistakes as he/she learns a trade. We wouldn’t expect a plumber apprentice to know all the tools of the profession after only a week, a month, or even a year on the job, so we shouldn’t expect that we will be experts at recovering in similar time frames.

In fact, we are always training, continuously spotting our symptoms and using tools to address them. We are practicing, just as doctors practice medicine. Mistakes or setbacks are unavoidable but, as Dr. Low reminds us, the setback does not signal the return of the illness.

I prefer to use a setback as a learning opportunity. When I feel an old symptom creep back, such as the urge to double check that the stove is off, I don’t work myself up. Instead, I spot the symptom and use tools to get through—in this case, “Feelings are not facts."

Fearing the setback won’t make us healthier. Neither will anticipating them. But taking a realistic view of them certainly will.

Low, AA. (1995). Manage Your Fears, Manager Your Anger: A Psychiatrist Speaks. Willett: Glencoe, IL.


speakeasyanxiety said...

I have social anxiety. I discovered about two years ago. And i'm trying blogging to work through my issues. I am excited to have found your blog too.:) any pointers would be nice.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Zoe and I am 22. A year ago I recovered from Anxiety and Panic so if you would like to talk to someone who has been through it and come out the other side then please e-mail me at freeyourself346@ymail.com


Emily-Jane Curtin said...

Hi there,

I found your blog the other week and have spent a couple of days flicking through your posts and its lovely that you have chosen to put your thoughts and feelings about this topic online.

I too suffer from anxiety depression so it's nice to find blogs like this to connect with.

I am also a director of a project about this whole topic and I thought it would be nice to get some anxiety sufferers on board too. If you could, could you read the through the site? Feel free to find us on facebook and twitter as well.


Thank you for your time and good luck with your blog!

Emily-Jane Curtin
Director/Scriptwriter for 'Any Other Day'

Nathan Rice said...

Good post.

A major part of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety is keeping a journal of the times you feel anxious, or afraid. The purpose of this is to review these times, try and identify triggers and root thoughts/perspectives, and come up with alternative perspectives that do not induce anxiety.

I discuss this more on my guide (http://beyond-human.com/natural-anxiety-relif/). Check it out!

Brian said...

You should look at setbacks as oppurtunities to see how far you have come and how much better you can now handle the situation. Everyone has setbacks in life. It's the way people deal with them that makes the difference.

Beating My Anxiety said...

Being aware and able to accept that setbacks will happen make it much easier to deal with when they do. I am constantly feeling like I take two steps forward and one back but I'm beginning to realize that progress is progress and these are all just chances to learn more about myself and my anxiety.

Doug said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. Brian's and Beating My Anxiety's notes are spot on: Setbacks, as Dr. Low reminds us, are not a sign of a return of the "illness," and if we expect setbacks we won't be disappointed. They are learning experiences.

Laura V. said...

I have my social anxiety still sometimes but I stop and realize that what I'm fearing is not real. And that helps diminish the thoughts. But what really helped was watching these short videos that taught me how to rethink and react to my anxiety.

We have anxiety because we are trying to control it. When we embrace it, it loses its power. I know what you are going through, trust me its tough. I have my good and bad days, I practice the techniques everyday and thats what keeps me strong and anxiety free.

If you want to check out the videos, its definitely worth a shot. I know because I still use them if I need a reminder about how to react to my thoughts. It was the best thing I ever bought. http://mypanicfreelife.com

You can do this! And you are not alone. :)